The Distancing of Communication

1 Feb

While reading the Fabian piece, I was struck by his bold claim that there is an inherent distancing in the conceptualization of communication, which requires a sender, a message, and a receiver – “even in communication-centered approaches that seem to recognize shared Time we can expect to find devices of temporal distancing” (31).  Since the novel is a powerful method of communication, as both Said and the class defend, the novel itself must also suffer from this distancing of communication between the author and audience.  Does this distancing of communication, both temporal (i.e. the time that passes between when the message is sent and received) and spatial (i.e. the distance between the author’s experience and location and those of the reader) contribute to the distancing of the Imperial discourse?  Or does this distancing inherent in communication/literature weaken the strength of the Imperial discourse because, as Said argues, “the structure connecting novels to one another has no existence outside the novels themselves, which means that one gets the particular, concrete experience of [the distanced] ‘abroad’ only in individual novels” (76).  I think that this communicative distancing has strengthened Britain and France’s Imperial identity, since this distancing further excludes the “Other” from the discourse.  Non-Western novelists and readings of these great European novelists have thus had to overcome an even greater distance than argued by Said in order to reach the ideal contrapuntal readings of literature that developed during Imperialism – in addition to justifying an alternative colonial narrative, critics of Imperialism have had to overcome the temporal distance protecting the novels themselves as a form of communication  and their canonized status in the halls of British/French culture.  Given this hurdle, the time it has taken to reach an acknowledgement of the need for a contrapuntal analysis in comparative literature is not surprising.

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